Jingle Bells, Sex Sells Well?

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A clothing retailer that caters to kids publishes a quarterly catalog that comes wrapped in cellophane, along with a warning label that says no one under 18 may purchase it.

The catalogue, which sells for about $6 at retail outlets, has aroused the wrath of Illinois Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood, and she's urging holiday shoppers to boycott the Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) clothing company that distributes it. Wood said the catalogue is full of scantily-clad models and racy interviews, and she said it peddles soft-core porn to kids.

Hampton Carney, an account executive at A&F's corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, told CNSNews.com the catalog is strictly off-limits to anyone under 18 years old, and he said clerks at retail stores are under orders to "card" young people who try to buy one.

"It's a chronicle of the college experience," he said, stressing that college kids - ages 18-22 -- are the ones A&F wants to reach. Carney said the company "sends people out to college campuses to study the lifestyles" of students, in an attempt to make clothing - and a catalog - that will appeal to their interests.

He said college students account for a large portion of the company's business.

The bold print at the bottom of the current "quarterly" catalog cover reads "Naughty or Nice." A description of the quarterly on A&F's Web site describes it as "the magazine of college living," which offers "interviews, gear, travel, clothes, music, and more ... the best of the Abercrombie lifestyle." The current issue runs over 300 pages, and Carney said some of the articles wouldn't appeal to the under-18 set.

Wire services say the Illinois lieutenant governor has written letters to newspapers, asking parents to join her in protesting the so-called "Abercrombie lifestyle."

In a recent report to shareholders, A&F financial officer Seth Johnson said the company is doing very well, with third-quarter profits up 25 percent over last year. Mike Jeffries, A&F's Chairman and CEO, told shareholders that "the kids' business continues to show great momentum," and he said he's very "confident about the future of the Abercrombie & Fitch brand."

Carney said the A&F quarterly catalog has been off limits to anyone under 18 for about a year. He also noted that some CDs, TV shows, and movies come with labels proclaiming they are off-limits to kids under 18.

As CNSNews.com reported earlier this year, even women's magazines at the supermarket checkout counter feature sexually blatant headlines on their covers. (See Related Story)

As for the "18-and-older" warnings, it's a case of forbidden fruit, young people say. That became clear earlier this year, after the nation's movie theaters agreed to enforce their "R" ratings, following the outcry over the Columbine High School shooting.

If it's human nature to want what you can't have, advertisers may be getting better at tapping into that.